Radical Calling

It had all the makings of a viral YouTube video—only YouTube hadn't been invented yet. And David Platt is sure glad it hadn't been. Here's the scene: a preteen Platt takes the stage at a youth group service to deliver his first sermon. He walks on stage carrying a Bible and a water bottle. Before saying a word, he fills his mouth with water and spews it all over the front row. "If you're lukewarm," he squeaks, "that's what God thinks of you!" Platt chuckles as he recalls his debut. "What a horrible start to preaching," he says. "There's no way I should have been given an opportunity to preach a sermon at that age, but I was. Guess I had a prophetic, or pathetic, edge from the beginning."

The prophetic part stuck. At 27 Platt became the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, making him the youngest megachurch pastor in American history. A few years later he wrote Radical, a jeremiad against the American Dream, which hit The New York Times Bestseller List. Now in his mid-thirties, Platt is more committed than ever to reaching unbelievers and challenging complacent Christians. Drew Dyck and Marshall Shelley talked to Platt about his calling, his passion for disciple-making, and why he still feels he has "no clue" what he's doing.

Tell us about your calling. Was it always to be a pastor?

Preaching, evangelism, and mission have always been driving passions for me. The way that's played out is something I never could have planned. I went to seminary but never intended on pursuing a Ph.D. I had a passion to teach the Word and wanted to know how to do it more effectively. After I finished the Ph.D., I was asked to teach at New Orleans seminary.

I saw it as an opportunity to pour myself every semester into 50 or 100 students, people who would go around the world in ministry. And it would enable me to go overseas during fall break, spring break, Christmas break, and summer break, taking students with me. I could show them disciple-making in global context. What better job in the world is there than that? It seemed like a great way for those passions to play out and hopefully build up the body. So I was doing that.

Being a pastor wasn't even on my radar at that point. Then Katrina came. It put our house under water. We were in Atlanta waiting to get back down to New Orleans. And this church in Birmingham was without a pastor, so they called to see if I'd fill in one Sunday. And so I did. And one Sunday turned into two, and two into three. I remember the day I got a call from the pastoral search team about maybe coming to pastor. They wanted to talk to me. And I just thought, There's no way. I was 26 at this point. I had never pastored. I sat down with this team and said, "With all due respect, you guys are crazy. There's no reason why this would work." They're talking to me about the church's multi-million dollar budget. I don't even keep the budget at my house. My wife does that. So I never thought I'd take the position.

What changed?

As we were praying, the Lord began to change my heart. My passion was to preach, to mobilize the church for evangelism and mission. But the Lord seemed to be leading us here to carry out that passion. Now, six years later, I can't imagine not pastoring. I love pastoring. I love shepherding the church on mission. I love preaching the Word. I would love to do this for as many years as the Lord gives me to live.

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Winter 2013: Callings  | Posted
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